AI News, Evolving Alongside Artificial Intelligence artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence-enhanced journalism offers a glimpse of the future of the knowledgeeconomy

Much as robots have transformed entire swaths of the manufacturing economy, artificial intelligence and automation are now changing information work, letting humans offload cognitive labor to computers.

In journalism, for instance, data mining systems alert reporters to potential news stories, while newsbots offer new ways for audiences to explore information.

Some estimates suggest that current levels of AI technology could automate only about 15% of a reporter’s job and 9% of an editor’s job.

Reporting, listening, responding and pushing back, negotiating with sources, and then having the creativity to put it together – AI can do none of these indispensable journalistic tasks.

But developing it took a ton of work, both editorial and technical: Editors had to figure out what to tag and whether the algorithms were up to the task, then develop new test data sets to evaluate performance.

Stuart Myles, the AP executive who oversees the project, told me it took about 36 person-months of work, spread over a couple of years and more than a dozen editorial, technical and administrative staff.

The system relies on a stable of six journalists who find government data sets tabulated by geographic area, identify interesting and newsworthy angles, and then develop those ideas into data-driven templates.

4 THEN text = “minor earthquake.” Tools like Arria also contain linguistic functionality to automatically conjugate verbs or decline nouns, making it easier to work with bits of text that need to change based on data.

For instance, template writers need to approach a story with an understanding of what the available data could say – to imagine how the data could give rise to different angles and stories, and delineate the logic to drive those variations.

It’s almost like the work a team of software engineers might do in debugging a script – and it’s all work humans must do, to ensure the automation is doing its job accurately.

As these new jobs evolve, it will be important to ensure they’re good jobs – that people don’t just become cogs in a much larger machine process.

But I’m optimistic that focusing on the human experience in these systems will allow journalists to flourish, and society to reap the rewards of speed, breadth of coverage and increased quality that AI and automation can offer.

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